Brown Pelican ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

“Brown Pelican” 40″ x 60″ Watercolor ©2014 Mindy Lighthipe

I just finished a commission for a client who wanted a “Brown Pelican” for his new beach house in Florida. I was thrilled to receive this commission and then I found out he wanted it 40″ wide x 60″ tall. Yikes! I have never painted anything bigger than a standard sheet of watercolor which is 22″ x 30″.  I was up for the challenge and had a blast! I thought I would share with you the process I went through to paint something this big.

– My first task was to find paper this big. I found that Lanaquarelle makes 300 lb. watercolor hotpress paper available 40″ x 60″ and is available at NY Central Art Supply. I ORDERD 2 SHEETS…… just in case!

– The 2 sheets came tightly rolled up in a cardboard box and my next task was to figure out how to uncurl it and get it to lay flat…… A trip to HomeDepot! I found a finished birch panel and had the salesman cut the board 44″ x 64″ so I would have some excess board all the way around….. Now to get it home! I had to rent a truck from HomeDepot and luckily we bought a new grill so I was able to capitalize on my business expenses by throwing the grill on the back too.

– I placed clean garbage bags on my studio floor and uncurled the paper on top of it and then covered the paper with more garbage bags and then placed the birch panel on top of it all. The weight of the panel made the paper stay flat. After a day or 2 I was able to use plastic clamps on the paper to keep it on the panel.

– I submitted 4 thumbnail sketches to the client with the general proportions mapped out. This is the sketch that was chosen.  I did a detailed graphite drawing of what it was going to look like, for me as well as the client.

Pelican Thumbnail sketch- MLighthipe©2014PelicanGraphite









– I scanned the finished graphite drawing into my computer and projected it onto the panel with the watercolor paper attached. I lightly traced the outline and some of the details onto the paper. This step helped me to keep the proportions in tact and made sure that the pelican was centered on the paper.

Detail of Brown Pelican- Mlighthipe ©201

– I was super nervous about getting the pristine white watercolor paper dirty, so I placed a large sheet of tracing vellum over the paper and cut out sections to work on in flaps so the rest of the paper would not get smudged by my hands…… I am a total slob when I work! This helped a great deal.

 – I  propped the birch panel onto some wooden crates so that I could get to the bottom of the painting. When  I couldn’t reach the bottom, I flipped it upside down and worked on it that way. Once the graphite drawing was created. I was ready for paint.

– Adding gouache and watercolor was intimidating at first. With the panel vertical, the paint might have run down the paper. I did not want to lay the painting flat on the ground. I usually wet the paper first before applying watercolor or gouache. This time I mixed up the colors I needed and applied them in a thin coat with a large #10 watercolor round brush. The graphite was visible through the light washes of color and it created a seal so the graphite did not move or smear any more.

– Additional layers of watercolor and gouache were applied until I achieved the color saturation I was looking for. The process from the thumbnail sketches to the finish painting was about 6 weeks.

Pelican Watercolor- Mlighthipe ©2014

– The next challenge was to scan the image! My husband and I rigged up a table along with 2 saw horses and moved the painting along my 8.5″ x 11″ Epson scanner. It took 42 scans before I was able to capture all of the painting. I did this in the same method as described in my eBook- Scan YOUR Art.

– I  used Photoshop to “stitch” the picture together and clean up the background. It is now ready to be shipped to the client.

This was an awesome experience. I loved every challenge that came my way. I can’t wait to do more!!!!! If you are interested in ordering an archival print of this painting please Contact Mindy